Food storage, water supply, ammunition-check! With Brad Pitt’s hit, World War Z, and the beloved TV show, Walking Dead, we have all heard of the impending “zombie apocalypse” and the corpses that will rise from the grave to haunt our streets. What many of you haven’t heard of is the “Zombie Toenail”.I had just finished dinner the other night when a friend of mine said that I had to look at his toe. He described it as black and bluish yellow. Always intrigued, I decided to take a look. He took off his shoes and socks revealing his toenail. No, children didn’t turn and hide and there wasn’t a blood chilling scream from one of the women in the room. He simply had a black toenail that looked as if it were loosening up. No sooner did he show me his zombified toe than another dinner companion said “hey, that looks like my toe”. Two zombie toes at one dinner party? The Apocalypse was drawing near. Off came another shoe and sock revealing another black toenail. I quickly calmed any concerns about the black color spreading and taking over the rest of their body. I assured them that the thirst for human flesh and destruction were not in their prognosis.
My zombiphobic friends simply had what is termed onycholysis (seperation of the nail from the underlying skin). This is a fairly common occurance and is usually preceded by some sort of traumatic event to the toe (stubbing toe on coffee table, kicking something hard). It turns out that both claimed to have been playing sports when this started and it always seems to occur after certain sports. I asked about their different shoes and how they fit. This is important as shoes that are too short press firmly against the tip of the big toe. Repetitive pressure causes the nail to lift from its base on the skin. On the other hand, shoes that are too big allow too much motion and slipping of the foot within the shoe causing the toe to hit the shoe’s end. Both men said their shoes fit fine. I asked them how much room they had between the end of their toe and the end of the shoe. In general, there should be one thumb width between the end of your shoe and the end of the toe (Zombies usually have thicker swollen fingers and are thus less reliable for measuring purposes).
So why are the toenails black? It could very well be that, in spite of my medical experience, my two friends really are converting into Zombies. More than likely, the black color to the nail is simply from a rupture of small blood vessels under the nail. As they bleed, clot and dry they become a dark purple-red-black or even green. This is very similar to bruising.
Should my friends gnaw their toenails off as most Zombies would? It is best to let the nails fall off on their own. Trying a “bathroom surgical procedure” is never a good idea and can lead to infection. If they become annoying or a source of pain, you can visit your nearest anti-Zombie Podiatry Clinic to have it removed. At FAS The Woodlands we offer a procedure to actually replace the toenail with a new type of resin, similar to dental fillings. This leaves the nail looking even better than before. This product (see Keryflex) is also available for anyone looking to simply improve the appearance of their toenails.
What if it is leaking some sort of fluid? That depends on the color of the fluid and the toe. Clear or bloody drainage is normal with inflammation and healing while yellow or green drainage is common in infections. I am told Zombies leak black tarry fluid. The skin around the nail should not become red as this is also a sign of infection.
So as we all gear up for the onslaught of Zombies, it is important to distinguish a normal pathological vs Zombie process.